A Shift in Government. The Cherokee Constitution.

The Cherokee Constitution was a reflection of the European influence upon Native American society.  When the Native Americans were first encountered by the Europeans, their cultures were misidentified based upon European conceptions. For example, “Indian societies, which were bound by kinship, clan, and village rather than by a larger tribal alliance”[1] was mislabeled as a tribal government system. This lack of understanding, or refusal of adhering to Native American tradition, continued throughout the colonial expansion of the nation. The Europeans deemed that Native Americans were beneath them and asserted their Sovereignty upon them, and started the process of assimilating Native American tribes into more European ways. Therefore, “The result of colonial assertions of sovereignty was that indigenous nations were legally stripped of their independent status.”[2] With the removal of the Native Americans from the Southern United States by President Andrew Jackson with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, many Native American tribes were doomed to adapt to the ways of the Europeans, who had by this point deemed themselves Americans.[3] The Cherokee Constitution clearly shows a shift from the kinship-based tribe system of the past to a new governmental system based upon the United States Constitution. For example, the Cherokee Constitution called for a government with “the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial”[4] branches, which would be run by elected officials.

Note: This article was originally published by Misty Hamilton Smith on Dec. 03, 2017, for the course HIST 314 at Southern New Hampshire University.


[1]. Colin G. Calloway, , 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 145.

[2]. Peter d’Errico, “SOVEREIGNTY A Brief History in the Context of U.S. ‘Indian law’,” University of Massachusetts, Amherst,

[3]. Glenn L. Swygart, “Trail of Tears.” Salem Press Encyclopedia (2013): Research Starters, EBSCOhost.

[4]. The Cherokee Observer, Inc., “The 1839 Cherokee Constitution,” The Cherokee Observer, Inc.


Calloway, Colin G. New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

d’Errico, Peter. “SOVEREIGNTY A Brief History in the Context of U.S. ‘Indian law’.”University of Massachusetts, Amherst. http://www.umass.edu/legal/derrico/sovereignty.html (accessed November 30, 2017).

Swygart, Glenn L. “Trail of Tears.” Salem Press Encyclopedia (2013): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed December 2, 2017).

The Cherokee Observer, Inc. “The 1839 Cherokee Constitution.” The Cherokee Observer, Inc. http://www.cherokeeobserver.org/Issues/1839constitution.html (accessed December 2, 2017).



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